French intelligence operatives’ trial resumes in Belgrade
January 30, 2009 3 Comments
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
The trial of a three-member group of French intelligence operatives arrested in Yugoslavia in 1999, on charges of planning to assassinate Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, has resumed for a fourth time in the Serb capital Belgrade. The sensational charges against the three are not unique. Although the intelligence history of NATO’s 1999-2000 war in Yugoslavia has yet to be written, the limited information currently available points to significant intelligence and espionage activity by several European nations in the former Yugoslavia. Most notably, in August 2000, the Yugoslav army captured a covert group of two British (Adrian Pragnell and John Yore) and two Canadian (Shaun Going and Liam Hall) operatives who were captured on Yugoslav soil reportedly without visas and in possession of materials for making sophisticated explosives. All four were eventually released by the post-Slobodan Milosevic Yugoslav government. In another case, a team of four Dutch undercover commandos was intercepted while attempting to cross into Serbia from Montenegro. Its members later admitted that their mission was to “kill or kidnap President Milosevic”. One of the most serious cases of espionage in the former Yugoslavia involves an assassination squad code-named Spider –a team of three French-handled intelligence operatives reportedly tasked with assassinating Slobodan Milosevic. The three, Jugoslav Petrušić, Slobodan Orašanin and Milorad Pelemiš, were arrested by Yugoslav authorities in November 1999, reportedly while trying to organize “10 trained commandos to storm the presidential residence”. Additionally, the group allegedly infiltrated the Yugoslav military and routinely supplied NATO with intelligence data on bombing targets during Operation Allied Force. The leader of Spider Squad, Jugoslav Petrušić, who is a dual Serb and French citizen, was allegedly recruited by French intelligence in the late 1980s. In the mid-1990s, Petrušić helped French intelligence transport nearly 200 Bosnian Serb mercenaries to Zaire, where they fought in support for the country’s late President Mobutu Sese Seko. Seko was eventually overthrown by Laurent Kabila, who was supported diplomatically and militarily by Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi, among other countries. It was in Zaire, Serbian government sources claim, that Petrušić was tasked by French intelligence to organize an assassination team targeting Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic. He and the two other Spider Squad members arrived in Serbia in 1999, where they received money from Paris, transported through Hungary by Slobodan “Serge” Lazarević, a Hungarian-born French intelligence agent. The three were arrested soon afterwards by Yugoslav counterintelligence. Their trial, which has so far been postponed three times, resumed for a fourth time on January 22. In 1999, during early interrogation sessions, Petrušić admitted he had killed upwards of 50 people in French intelligence missions. Lately, however, he has been claiming that his mission in Yugoslavia was simply to pull out French NATO pilots in case their planes were shot down” during Operation Allied Force. Orašanin, on the other hand, claims to have been working for Yugoslav military intelligence when arrested. The closed-door trial continues in Belgrade.